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Bushfires

Analysis and Comment (49)

We could be in for some warmer weather with an increased risk of drought and bushfires. We could be in for some warmer weather with an increased risk of drought and bushfires. Flickr/Len Matthews

Are we heading for a worrying Super El Niño?

We have only just moved into May and despite being seven months away from next summer in the southern hemisphere, climate researchers are seeing the beginnings of what could be the most powerful El Niño…
Bleached and healthy corals on the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland’s Keppel Islands. Bleached and healthy corals on the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland’s Keppel Islands. AAP

IPCC: Australia and New Zealand face greater fire and flood risk, damage to coral reefs

Australia’s coral reefs and mountain-top ecosystems are set to suffer from climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest summary of the research. The threats to these…
Fiery future: evidence is growing of a link between climate change and extreme events. Fiery future: evidence is growing of a link between climate change and extreme events. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Global meteorology report puts yet more heat on climate politics

The new World Meteorological Organization statement on the status of the global climate of 2013 highlights a fact that some still wilfully prefer to ignore – climate change is already making many extreme…
Melbourne beachgoers battle January’s heatwave. They may need to get used to it. Melbourne beachgoers battle January’s heatwave. They may need to get used to it. AAP Image/David Crosling

Australia’s climate: time to act on rising heatwaves and fires

The State of the Climate 2014 report, released today by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, confirms that Australia is heating up. It has warmed by 0.9C since 1910, with more in store thanks to the…
El Nino could stoke more extreme bushfire weather. El Nino could stoke more extreme bushfire weather. James975/Flickr

Should we be preparing for an El Niño in 2014?

Recently speculation has been rife that the end of 2014 will see an El Niño event — the change in Pacific ocean and atmosphere circulation that is known to produce drought, extreme heat, and fire in Australia…
In February last year fires came to within 20 km of Hobart. In February last year fires came to within 20 km of Hobart. Flickr/AB Creative Edge Tasmania

Bushfires: what we can learn from Hobart’s near miss

With another week of hot weather in southeast Australia, we’re all on watch for the outbreak of bushfires. Fire warnings and bans are currently out for Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia, with a potentially…
Too few Australian bushfire preparedness plans consider people with disabilities. Too few Australian bushfire preparedness plans consider people with disabilities. Giant Gingko/Flickr

Bushfire planning leaves behind people with disabilities

When bushfires start, no one should be more worried than people with disabilities. Recent research shows people with disabilities are twice as likely to die or be injured than the general population during…
Fire zone: bushland ablaze in the Perth Hills. Fire zone: bushland ablaze in the Perth Hills. AAP

Bushfires: rural residents are the solution, not the problem

The return of heatwaves and bushfires to the news pages has brought fresh warnings that Australians who live in fire-prone zones still don’t fully understand the risk they are running. Deadly fires in…
The aftermath of the bushfires that swept through the Blue Mountains last October. The aftermath of the bushfires that swept through the Blue Mountains last October. AAP Image/High Alpha

Our deadly bushfire gamble: risk your life or bet your house

News images of traumatised homeowners huddled in front of the ashes of their homes have become increasingly familiar in recent years. But the question has to be asked - why are we so often surprised when…
People living in the bush can’t rely too heavily on controlled burn-offs to protect their home. People living in the bush can’t rely too heavily on controlled burn-offs to protect their home. AAP Image/Channel Ten

Which homes will survive this bushfire season?

After the early onset of the 2013-14 bushfire season, it is worth reviewing which homes are more likely to be left standing when the fires inevitably return. One of the most important factors to note is…
Firefighters battle a bushfire close to homes in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in October this year. Firefighters battle a bushfire close to homes in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in October this year. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Climate Council’s Code Red bushfire warning

Australians have always had to live with bushfires - but climate change is driving that fire danger even higher. And we’re not talking about a distant threat to future generations. According to real observations…
Cattle grazing would do nothing to reduce the impact of alpine fires, such as the 2013 Harrietville blaze. Cattle grazing would do nothing to reduce the impact of alpine fires, such as the 2013 Harrietville blaze. AAP Image/Australian Workers Union

New research shows alpine grazing does not reduce blazing

The scale and impact, both economic and ecological, of recent bushfire disasters demands a rethink of fire management strategies. A controversial approach receiving more attention internationally is the…
The historic homestead Wallarah House burnt to the ground in the recent NSW bushfires. The historic homestead Wallarah House burnt to the ground in the recent NSW bushfires. AAP/Dean Lewins

When our cultural heritage goes up in smoke

This month’s New South Wales fire emergency has again focused attention on the threat to life and property caused by fire. With thousands of hectares of bushland already burnt out, the impact on natural…
Google’s mapping of crises can take pressure off emergency services, letting them spend money where it’s needed. Google’s mapping of crises can take pressure off emergency services, letting them spend money where it’s needed. AAP/Dean Lewins

Google’s Crisis Map: can technology save us from nature?

Bushfire management is one of Australia’s most prominent and important environmental challenges, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Just this week, Google launched a Google Crisis…
Firefighters have plenty of ideas about disaster management - so why don’t we listen? Firefighters have plenty of ideas about disaster management - so why don’t we listen? AAP/Dan Himbrechts

What firefighters say about climate change

You do not find many climate change sceptics on the end of [fire] hoses anymore… They are dealing with increasing numbers of fires, increasing rainfall events, increasing storm events. – A senior Victorian…
Fighting fire with fire: how can we best target hazard reduction burns? Fighting fire with fire: how can we best target hazard reduction burns? Flickr/Anthony Clark

Bushfire hazard reduction: the sword or the shield?

The Greater Sydney region contains the largest urban centre in Australia, and is also, thanks to its landscape and forests, prone to intense bushfires. Tens of thousands of properties and businesses are…
It really is time to talk about whether climate change is responsible for bushfires. It really is time to talk about whether climate change is responsible for bushfires. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Fire and climate change: don’t expect a smooth ride

With fires still burning across New South Wales, it’s time to have a look at the role climate change might have played. Are the conditions we’re seeing natural variation, or part of a long term trend…
Planning law could do much more to prevent us living in bushfire-prone areas. Planning law could do much more to prevent us living in bushfire-prone areas. Brian Yap

Living with fire: deciding where to build

With an early, devastating start to the bushfire season in New South Wales and Queensland, recent disasters in Victoria and Tasmania, and projections that current trends will continue under climate change…
We could prevent scenes like this. We could prevent scenes like this. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

We know what starts fires; are we brave enough to prevent them?

Yet again we are seeing tragedy unfold in NSW, where more than 90 fires are currently burning. Yet, as with many issues of profound importance, as a society we seem unable to make the links between conditions…
Sydney’s environment evolved with fire. Sydney’s environment evolved with fire. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Sydney fires caused by people and nature

Even without the official tally it looks like the fires that started yesterday in Blue Mountains will be the most costly in terms of property since 1968. But how have they come about? Why is the area vulnerable…
Bushfire modelling predicted the Dunalley fires a day before they happened, but that’s not the whole story. Bushfire modelling predicted the Dunalley fires a day before they happened, but that’s not the whole story. AAP Image/News Limited Pool, Chris Kidd)

Tasmanian bushfires: should we have trusted the models?

This week the Tasmanian government released its inquiry into the January 2013 bushfires that destroyed numerous properties on the Tasmanian Peninsula. A key finding is that modelling predicted fires would…
Bushfire season has begun: is there any real way to stop houses burning down? Bushfire season has begun: is there any real way to stop houses burning down? AAP Image/Scott Carpenter

Reducing bushfire risk: don’t forget the science

The early start to the bushfire season in NSW - 80 fires were burning yesterday across the state - will prompt many rural residents and the fire authorities to worry about whether this summer will see…
One reason why: Leadbeater’s Possum will become extinct unless further action is taken to protect their Mountain Ash habitat. One reason why: Leadbeater’s Possum will become extinct unless further action is taken to protect their Mountain Ash habitat. Flcirk/Greens MPs

Why Victoria needs a Giant Forest National Park

The Central Highlands of Victoria are home to the world’s tallest flowering plants, the Mountain Ash, and one of Australia’s most endangered mammals, the Leadbeater’s Possum. Both are threatened by ongoing…
We can’t wait until summer to be ready for fires and other natural hazards. We can’t wait until summer to be ready for fires and other natural hazards. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Bushfires can occur year round: we have to be prepared

Yesterday’s fires in Sydney’s western outskirts are a timely warning for all Australian communities. Being prepared for a bushfire is not just a summer job – communities in bushfire prone areas, and in…
Yesterday’s early start to the bushfire season threatened homes in Sydney’s suburbs. Yesterday’s early start to the bushfire season threatened homes in Sydney’s suburbs. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Fire and flood: how home insurance can help us adapt to climate change

Australia is a harsh and volatile environment, subject to extremes of fire and flood. We’ve just seen a particularly early start to the bushfire season, with over 60 fires burning and at least two homes…
The risk of fires is increasing each year. It’s time for a serious conversation about prevention. The risk of fires is increasing each year. It’s time for a serious conversation about prevention. Flickr/ToniFish

Bad bushfire planning burns money

It’s cold now, but the debate over how to deal with higher bushfire risk is heating up. Firefighters and farmers around Australia are calling for more hazard reduction burns to reduce the risk of future…
Another summer, not quite like the other summers. Another summer, not quite like the other summers. Steve Lacy

Floods, fires and lots of heat: summing up summer 2012-13

We all know what to expect from summer in Australia. From December through March it will be hot, there will be storms and floods, and there will be bush fires. It’s been like that for as long as history…
Natural disasters don’t just leave those affected rebuilding their lives but also struggling to find meaning behind the tragedy. Natural disasters don’t just leave those affected rebuilding their lives but also struggling to find meaning behind the tragedy. Facebook CFA Victoria/AAP

Floods and fires: the struggle to rebuild, the search for meaning

This summer another bout of floods, fires, and cyclones has struck, culminating most recently in out-of-control fires across Victoria in which at least one home was lost. When we see the loss of property…
Victoria’s alpine forest is burning more often, changing the landscape and reducing its ability to store carbon. Victoria’s alpine forest is burning more often, changing the landscape and reducing its ability to store carbon. AAP Image/Australian Workers Union

Ash to ashes – what could the 2013 fires mean for the future of our forests?

In the high country of Victoria, firefighters are presently battling a large bushfire that is moving through the forests south of Harrietville and past the second highest mountain in Victoria, Mt. Feathertop…
Australia’s disaster management policies are in need of reform. But is a permanent disaster fund the right way to go about it? Australia’s disaster management policies are in need of reform. But is a permanent disaster fund the right way to go about it? AAP

It’s time to talk about disaster recovery

Disasters are a fact of life. We need to talk about them. Floods, fires, earthquakes and other misadventures will happen in spite of our best plans. Their impact will sometimes be severe simply because…
Cows do more harm than good in national parks. Cows do more harm than good in national parks. Howard Russell

Fact check: does grazing reduce bush fires in national parks?

According to the ABC, Senator John Williams has called for cattle grazing in national parks to reduce the risk of fire: The problem in our national parks is that when we have these savage fires with these…
We assume the trade-offs between fire prevention and impacts can be measured in terms of dollars, but it’s not that simple. We assume the trade-offs between fire prevention and impacts can be measured in terms of dollars, but it’s not that simple. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Understanding the true costs of managing fire

Fires are an inescapable part of life in Australia; they have been occurring for millennia, and regardless of our actions, they will continue. Much of the vegetation in Australia has evolved to be tolerant…
The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent - who will take responsibility for the delay in action? The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent - who will take responsibility for the delay in action? AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Humanity’s scorched Earth program – where to now?

The intensity and frequency of bush fires and firestorms around the globe, including recently in Australia, is a growing worry. Under conditions where mean land temperatures have increased by ~1.5 degrees…
Research shows that men are more likely to stay and fight bushfires than women. Research shows that men are more likely to stay and fight bushfires than women. AAP/Tony Phillips

Fighting and dying: blokes and bushfire in Australia

“Record-breaking Heatwave”. “Australia Burns”. “Heroes of the Flames”. Headlines such as these will be familiar to anyone who has lived though a bad bushfire season in Australia. These past two weeks have…
There has been an outcry in Tasmania against legal restrictions on fuel reduction. There has been an outcry in Tasmania against legal restrictions on fuel reduction. AAP Image/Twitter Botonaine

Does fuel reduction burning help prevent damage from fires?

As the fires that started in Tasmania in early January continue to burn, a rising flow of letters to the editor, radio raves and internet utterances are questioning whether the state and local governments…
In many cases, first-hand accounts from citizens can be as valuable as reports from official sources. In many cases, first-hand accounts from citizens can be as valuable as reports from official sources. AAP Image/Tony McDonough.

Spread the word: the value of local information in disaster response

As dozens of bushfires continue to burn across the country (not least in New South Wales) many Australians find themselves unable to return home while many others have no home to return to. While we all…
A handout aerial image released by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service on 14 January 2013 shows the partly destroyed Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran in New South Wales. A handout aerial image released by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service on 14 January 2013 shows the partly destroyed Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran in New South Wales. EPA/NSW Rural Fire Service

Smoke damage to four buildings housing telescopes at observatory

Four buildings containing telescopes at Australia’s largest astronomical observatory have suffered smoke damage in a bushfire, the Australian National University said today. Access to the Siding Spring…
The way disaster relief is offered to small businesses and primary producers following natural disasters is cumbersome and inefficient and needs a national approach. The way disaster relief is offered to small businesses and primary producers following natural disasters is cumbersome and inefficient and needs a national approach.

We need a national approach to small business disaster relief

When the embers have cooled or the floods have passed, who’s looking after the sustainability of small business in regional Australia? This year’s extreme heat and dry weather have again ensured Australia’s…
Bushfire affected property at Sommers Bay in Tasmania, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Residents of the worst-hit town Dunalley in the Tasmanian bushfires returned on Friday to see the full extent of the devastation. Bushfire affected property at Sommers Bay in Tasmania, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Residents of the worst-hit town Dunalley in the Tasmanian bushfires returned on Friday to see the full extent of the devastation. AAP/David Beniuk

Natural disasters have unexpected impacts on mental health

Radical circumstances (bushfires and natural disasters) flush out the mental illness in society. Whenever there’s a disaster, there’s a rush on hospital admissions for psychiatric problems. But on the…
An increasing trend towards more frequent and severe bushfires has created uncertainty over insurance coverage. An increasing trend towards more frequent and severe bushfires has created uncertainty over insurance coverage. AAP

Bushfire losses reignite debate about insurance reform

The Australian summer has become synonymous with bushfire risk. Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria have witnessed devastating bushfires generating millions of dollars of damage. Many individuals have…
Bushfires release CO2, but how much? Bushfires release CO2, but how much? AAP Image/Kim Foale

Fact check: do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

“Indeed I guess there’ll be more CO2 emissions from these fires than there will be from coal-fired power stations for decades.” - acting Opposition leader, Warren Truss, January 9, 2013 On Wednesday, leader…
The rush to rebuild is understandable, but our attitude to bushfires will bring us more trouble in the long run. The rush to rebuild is understandable, but our attitude to bushfires will bring us more trouble in the long run. AAP Image/Rob Blakers

Adapting to bushfires means accepting their place in Australia

It’s just a week into the new year and here in Tasmania we are already licking our wounds after disastrous fires in the state’s south. Mainlanders are facing similar events as extreme weather conditions…
It will take social change to prevent people deliberately lighting bushfires. It will take social change to prevent people deliberately lighting bushfires. AAP Image/NSW Rural Fire Service, Barry Ballard

Bushfire arson: prevention is the cure

At this time of year, each year - the bushfire season - the complex nature of human behaviour hits home. Bushfires are a terrible event. The environmental destruction, the loss of property and sometimes…
A bushfire smoke plume visible from Park Beach in Forcett, south-east of Hobart. A bushfire smoke plume visible from Park Beach in Forcett, south-east of Hobart. AAP

Smoke from bushfires poses a health hazard for all of us

The bushfires currently raging across south-eastern Australia have, once again, focused national attention on the risks they pose for the community. The immediate concerns, naturally, are the direct impacts…
Environmental heat disturbs the delicate balance between sleep and body temperature. Environmental heat disturbs the delicate balance between sleep and body temperature. Steven Mileham

Too hot to sleep? Here’s why

Bushfires are quite appropriately dominating our nation’s concerns during the current Australian heatwave. But for many, the struggle to sleep through soaring temperatures is a personal inferno that dominates…
Researchers and firefighters have long speculated that fire tornadoes might exist. Now we know they do. Researchers and firefighters have long speculated that fire tornadoes might exist. Now we know they do. Dig/AAP

Turn and burn: the strange world of fire tornadoes

We’ve all seen footage of out-of-control bushfires sweeping the Australian landscape, burning out hectares of native forest in their wake. But you might not have heard of a fire tornado, let alone seen…
The role of powerlines in bushfires is raising some pressing issues of climate change adaptation. The role of powerlines in bushfires is raising some pressing issues of climate change adaptation. Paul Hocksenar

Hot issue - bushfires, powerlines and climate change

We have unwittingly hardwired a bushfire ignition source throughout our flammable landscapes – powerlines. Powerlines can fail under any conditions but the risk increases on days of high bushfire risk…
We all want to know how bad the next fire season will be, but working it out isn’t easy. We all want to know how bad the next fire season will be, but working it out isn’t easy. AFP/Torsten Blackwood

‘The worst fire season ever’ … until next year

Bushfires are part of the Australian landscape and the psyche of its human inhabitants. This is particularly true as months of hot, dry weather approach. Recent warnings have predicted a dire summer ahead…

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